Mike Schmidt is one of the best third basemen and Phillies players of all time. He’s a Hall of Famer and few people in the world are better credentialed to talk about baseball than the former 1980 World Champion and three time MVP.
On WIP Tuesday, Schmidt was asked about the centerpiece of the current Phillies payroll, centerfielder Odubel Herrera, who has struggled this season hitting at a .243 clip — even with some recent solid play.
Schmidt seemed to be more focused on knocking Herrera for his heritage than for his performance on the diamond.
“My honest answer to that would be no because of a couple of things,” Schmidt said on the airwaves. “First of all, it’s a language barrier. Because of that, I think he can’t be a guy that would sort of sit in a circle with four, five American players and talk about the game. Or try and learn about the game or discuss the inner workings of the game. Or come over to a guy and say, ‘Man, you gotta run that ball out.’ Just can’t be — because of the language barrier — that kind of a player.”
Ignoring the fact that Herrera speaks pretty good English — and that “run that ball out” is a pretty easy phrase for a ballplayer to pick up over the course of a 162 game season — there have been plenty of Latino leaders in clubhouses over the storied history of Major League Baseball.
Roberto Clemente, Roberto Alomar and Fernando Venezuela were all native Spanish speakers and all played their way into the Hall of Fame.
In addition, the Phillies fluctuating roster has contained more than 10 (of 25 active players) Spanish speakers this season as the team has invested considerable resources into developing players like Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis. The Phils have a Latin flavor, and Schmidt was off-base in his criticism.
Even worse, Schmidt went on to explain that he does have faith in Herrera’s ability to play baseball, just not — as he mentioned above — his ability to bridge the language gap.
“He’s more of a sort of play the game, allow his exuberance for the game to kind of spread around the team,” Schmidt, who is a CSN color commentator and employed by the team, said. “I think the fans love him. He’s not afraid to do things that sort of irk the other team if you will, and you know what that is. I probably would hate him if I played against him because of his antics on the field, but he’s not afraid. He’s not afraid to do that. He’s learning to play a really good centerfield. They haven’t figured out where he needs to hit in the batting order yet. To answer your question, those are the reasons that I don’t think you can build a team around him. Now, I truly think he can hit second or first on a championship team. There’s no question about that.”
There was really no reason for Schmidt to attack Herrera, 25 years old, and his native language as a reason why he can’t lead a baseball team. Because judging from the outfielder’s stats, there’s no shortage of complaints that could serve as legitimate criticisms for Herrera’s performance.
Keep it on the field, Michael Jack Schmidt.